Alberta's new rules, including masking, now in effect province-wide
The Alberta government's new COVID-19 restrictions regarding masking and a curfew on serving liquor are now in force, but some events say they've gotten an "exemption" from officials.
On Friday, Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw spoke to Albertans in order to address concerns over the sharp increase of cases.
The action they announced was a return to some health restrictions, including limits on indoor gathering for unvaccinated Albertans, a 10 p.m. curfew on licensed establishments to serve alcohol and a province-wide mask mandate.
The Airdrie Pro Rodeo, which had scheduled its FCA Rodeo event for this weekend, was concerned about how the new rules would affect the operations.
However, according to the most recent post on the event's Facebook page, organizers said the province had given them a pass on all of the new developments.
"The provincial government has granted us an exception for our FCA Rodeo September 4th & 5th. Therefore, beer gardens will carry on as usual and will be open until 2 a.m.," it wrote.
Organizers added that some health guidelines would be in place to protect guests from infection, including wearing a mask for bar service and social distancing inside facilities.
Masks will also need to be worn on the shuttles tasked with ferrying visitors to and from the event grounds, it says.
Another event, the Benalto Agricultural Society's Benalto Fair and Stampede, posted on social media that it has also received approval to serve liquor until 2 a.m. Sunday.
The pair of rodeos have also been joined by a number of other events, such as the Daines Ranch Pro Rodeo and the Ponoka Stampede, which have both said the province's new rules don't apply to "outdoor special events" such as theirs.
The mayor of Ponoka told CTV News that he didn't think Friday's restrictions impacted the local stampede because it was a special event. The provincial Record of Decision states that "a person who holds a Special Event Licence is prohibited from serving liquor after 10 p.m."
When read the decision, mayor Rick Bonnett said the curfew would be "impossible" to enforce Saturday night after originally announcing it wouldn't apply to the event. He said "grey area" in the order influenced his decision.
According to the director of Alberta Health, there are three currently approved exemptions, the Ponoka, Airdrie and Cochrane rodeos.
“Exemptions are granted due to the event’s importance to the local economy and community,” said Director Chris Bourdeau. “Each event is considered individually, and mask requirements continue to apply to any indoor component.
The current exemptions are all for open-air events, Bourdeau added.
Meanwhile in Calgary, organizers with Pride Week say they haven't gotten any sort of exemption and the lack of one is going to hurt business.
"Those holding added festivities had extended liquor service hours specifically for Pride," Elliot Rae Cormier said. "Now, those extended liquor services are no longer with these new restrictions."
The decision to impose a liquor curfew has been a controversial one.
Mount Royal University political science professor Keith Brownsey told CTV News it was a bad message for Kenney to send.
"It is absurd," he said. "How does that help business in any way. It is a shockingly awful way to run a province in a pandemic."
Alberta's former chief medical officer of health agreed.
Dr. James Talbot told CTV News he doesn't see the new rules making a large dent in COVID-19 case numbers, but he does see them upsetting the vaccinated portion of the population.
AIRDRIE ADHERES TO MASK RULES
While both the City of Calgary and the City of Edmonton have reinstated bylaws to require masking in public areas, the City of Airdrie, where the rodeo is scheduled to take place, announced it would abide by the province's rules.
Masks will be mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces as of Sept. 4 at 8 a.m. Visit https://t.co/JULufhHdKj for info about this and other provincially mandated public health measures.— City of Airdrie (@City_of_Airdrie) September 3, 2021
Earlier in the pandemic, Airdrie officials announced they would automatically enact a mask bylaw, punishable by a fine, if the case numbers resulted in the community entering 'enhanced status' as defined by the province.
At the time it announced the face covering rule, the city had 130 active cases of COVID-19.
As of Sept. 2, the city of Airdrie has 224 active cases.